UNG student founds campus club for fellow atheists

“Atheism is simply the lack of a belief in a god or gods,” said 26-year-old freshman biology major Jeff Burt, who is pursuing his second bachelor’s degree at the University of North Georgia.

Burt, who earned his first degree from Full Sail University, has considered himself an atheist for years, despite being raised as a Seventh-day Adventist, a branch of Protestant Christianity whose followers believe the earth was created in six literal days.

UNG Connect lists over 200 student-led organizations at UNG, 29 of those organizations are listed as faith-based, and zero clubs or organizations on the Gainesville campus are for atheists.

That is about to change, however, thanks to Burt, who is in the process of starting an atheist club on the Gainesville campus.

“It is important for other atheists who live here and who go to this school to know that there are other atheists out there,” Burt said.

Founding members of the prospective UNG atheist club (pictured from left to right): Jeff Burt, adviser James Grindeland, Jenya Rector, Caleb Brookshire and Mason Carlisle. (Photo by Viktoria Capek-Grey)

Under the advisement of philosophy professor James Grindeland, Burt held the first unofficial club meeting on Feb. 21 with three students to discuss the creation of the club, write a constitution, generate ideas for meeting activities and think of possible names for the organization. Some of the prospective names the group discussed included “UNG Atheists” and “The Atheist Nighthawks.”

“You guys are now the founders of this group,” Burt said to Jenya Rector, Mason Carlisle and Caleb Brookshire in the club meeting room in Student Involvement on the Gainesville campus. “This will now be our legacy here.”

The group discussed possible events to hold on campus, such as the classic “Does God exist” debate and “Ask an Atheist Day,” at which students could ask club members anything about atheism or related topics.

Burt said many people he has told about the club have been extremely supportive of it. The only negative response he has directly received from fellow students questioned the purpose of a community of atheist’s gathering together.

“There are some people who feel like having an atheist club is pointless because it is gathering people around nothing. So what are we gonna do? Just sit around and be like, ‘So … there’s no God right?’” Burt said. “But for me the club is a lot more important than that.”

Burt said that the club is also open to agnostics, skeptics and those who do believe in God, and expressed his interest in getting to know and understand students of all backgrounds.

“You don’t talk about religion and politics,” Burt said. “I think you should talk about it more.”

The club will be listed on UNG Connect as a faith-based organization as soon as paperwork is finished and the founders decide on a name and description.

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